Man represents himself in family provision claim and loses

Published 02 Jul 2015

A man who claimed he was in a de-facto relationship with a woman who died intestate has lost after representing himself in court. The man, whose first language wasn’t English and had no legal training, decided to pursue a family provision claimalone despite having access to a pro bono lawyer.

According to court documents, the plaintiff had counsel at various points during the inheritance dispute, but decided to proceed at the hearing without qualified representation. His previous lawyer was in court on the day and said he would provide his services free of charge, yet the plaintiff turned down the offer.

The deceased’s estate was worth $778,911, comprising a $700,000 property in Paddington and the remainder residing in bank accounts. Having left no will, the woman’s assets would have been left to the plaintiff if he was able to prove he was in a de-facto relationship that had lasted for at least two years.

Aside from his own sworn affidavit, the plaintiff’s case was supported by a witness from a local shelter who claimed the man and the deceased were frequently spotted around the neighbourhood. The witness said they held hands, shared jokes and regularly ate out together.

The man also relied upon a letter from CentreLink in which the organisation confirmed the plaintiff had informed them he was living at the Paddington address between October 2012 and January 2013.

Family provision claim rejected

Despite the plaintiff’s presented evidence, a considerable number of witnesses corroborated the defence’s assertion that the man was not in a de-facto relationship with the deceased.

Several neighbours, social workers and NSW Trustee & Guardian employees said the plaintiff merely went door to door in the neighbourhood delivering fruit and an assortment of “junk”.

Other evidence appeared to contradict the man’s case. For example, during times he alleged he lived with the deceased, he had set up bank accounts and visited general practitioners and pharmacies based far away from Paddington.

The judge said it seemed implausible that the man would not conduct these activities closer to home if he indeed lived where he claimed. The man also did not attend the hospital where the deceased was admitted in the days before she died.

Based on the evidence, the judge ruled that while there appeared to be some form of relationship between the deceased and the plaintiff, this did not amount to a de-facto partnership. The man’s claim was thus dismissed and he must now pay the defendant’s costs.

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